Robotics in Construction: The latest innovations
Construction Global explores some of the latest developments in robot-related construction technologies.
In recent years, we have seen so much innovation and digital transformation in all corners of the construction industry from the planning and design process to on-site work. Robotics has been one of the biggest technological advancements the industry has been graced by.
As robotics in the construction industry continues to play a big part in keeping things moving efficiency, we explore the four latest and greatest solutions.
Despite its relatively small size, the four-wheeled Husky A200 robot packs a punch. It has the ability to help contractors save time by carrying various tools, materials and other objects across the construction site.
Although the robot hasn’t quite reached the mainstream market yet, engineers at the Italy-based Fraunhofer Italia Innovation Engineering Center (IEC) are working to adapt the A200 to do just that.
GE Tunneling Earthworm
GE has always been known to innovate and lead the way in many industries, delivering some of the most useful innovations and products to both businesses and consumers.
As the company focuses on the construction and mining industry, a research team based in New York are developing a small tunnelling robot which will have the ability to dig a tunnel over 540 yards long at a speed of almost four inches per second.
The robot will be able to mimic the movement of an earthworm moving understand which will enable maximum efficiency and flexibility. It will have no trouble squeezing into tight spaces either, thanks to its muscle- and skeleton-like structure.
Coffee Feet Robot
This is certainly one on the list with the most interesting name. The Coffee Feet Robot is being designed by the University of California San Diego. The researchers have found a way to help commercially available robots move up to 40% faster on uneven terrain. This has been achieved by placing a membrane filled with coffee ground on the feet of a robot, hence the name.
Boston Dynamics’ robot dog
Boston Dynamics is known for its clever robot innovations. This robot is set apart from the others on the list as it is commercially available right now priced at $74,500.
The robot dog, officially known as SpotWalk, includes image-capturing devices and laser scanners giving it the ability to navigate and patrol predetermined pathways through a job site. It also has the ability to navigate difficult terrain due thanks to the robots’ clever design. The machine aims to reduce worker hours doing the same tasks repeatedly, but is also designed to provide the latest imagery of the construction site.
SafeAI attracts $21m funding as SmartMix AI tool launches
SafeAI is driving the transformation of the mining and construction industries through connected, autonomous sites. With chronic labour shortages, unsafe working conditions and frequent project delays, these industries are in a unique position to benefit from autonomy.
Unlike on-road applications of the technology, autonomous heavy equipment operates in controlled environments, which means companies can create smarter, safer, more productive project sites today that create meaningful, near-term impact.
“We are at a tipping point for autonomous heavy equipment,” said Bibhrajit Halder, founder and CEO at SafeAI. “We’ve proven that autonomy makes work sites significantly safer and more productive; now, we are on the cusp of mass adoption. Together with our valued partners, customers and investors, we’re poised to deploy autonomy in off-road industries like construction and mining, at scale, to rethink the way heavy industry operates.”
Heavy industry is a large, growing global market, ripe for disruption. The construction equipment market alone is valued at $140 billion, and expected to increase to $175 billion by 2025; construction-related spending accounts for a staggering 13% of global GDP, or $11.5 trillion.
But there remains significant room for growth; in construction alone, higher productivity could create an estimated $1.6 trillion in additional value. With just 25% of the infrastructure needed by 2050 in existence today, autonomy can bridge this productivity gap with greater efficiency and 24/7 operations. SafeAI is at the forefront of this transformation.
“There’s a tremendous amount of excitement in the autonomy space today; but it’s clear the biggest opportunity for this technology is off-road,” said Mark Blackwell, General Partner at Builders VC. “With its industry-leading autonomous software, scalable retrofit approach and partner ecosystem, SafeAI is uniquely poised to capitalize on this opportunity. We’re proud to support the company in its next chapter of growth as demand for autonomous heavy equipment continues to skyrocket.”
New investors LTC, DG Ventures, MACA and Vimson Group, and existing investors Autotech Ventures, Brick and Mortar Ventures, Embark Ventures, Monta Vista Capital and Obayashi Corporation, also participated in the round. The funding comes on the heels of a year of rapid growth for SafeAI, including new partnerships with Obayashi, Goodyear and Macnica, and expansion into Australia’s booming mining market.
A pilot program with Obayashi Corporation last November saw a Caterpillar 725 articulated dump truck autonomously complete a vital on-site function and carry out load-haul-dump cycles.
Giatec debuts SmartMix AI tool
Giatec has debuted what it claims is the world's first concrete AI tool for producers, SmartMix. The web-based AI tool allows producers to optimise concrete ingredient proportions, reduce cement usage, and predict the performance of their mixes while still meeting project specifications.
Giatec believes this tool will lower Greenhouse Gas emissions resulting from concrete production by 400 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking 110 million cars off the road.
SmartMix builds on Giatec's first AI software program Roxi, which has collected millions of data points from the company's SmartRock wireless concrete sensors across 8,000 projects and 80 countries.
Giatec's head of research and development, Andrew Fahim, said the new technologies are going to pave the path forward for the industry to meet increasing infrastructure demands.